Several national newspapers reported Skills Minister Matthew Hancock’s latest attempt to talk up the Coalition’s faltering apprenticeship programme (www.gov.uk/government/speeches/matthew-hancocks-speech-on-a-skills-revolution). Newspapers also carried statistics showing an 18% in the number of 16 and 17 year olds signing up for apprenticeships –with 50 000 youngsters now taking this route, yet these figures take on a rather different significant when they are compared against the number of 16-17 staying on in full-time education, some 1.2 million and representing over 85% of the cohort.
Hancock also pointed to a 40% increase in the number of under-25 year olds on Advanced level apprenticeships (work-based alternatives to A-level) but other government figures show only 22,100 starts by under-19 year olds for the six months from August 2013 with another 28 000 by those 19-25. Compared with the 300 000 plus A-level candidates and the 310 000 acceptances of university places by school leavers for September 2013, these numbers are extremely small and show that whatever Hancock and Coalition colleagues like to tell us; apprenticeships do not represent a serious alternative to university and that most young people entering sixth-form will in the absence of real apprenticeship opportunities (applicants outnumber vacancies by well over 10 to 1) continue to sign up for A-level courses if they can.
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